Ohio liquor firearm sign

What's the deal with those "Warning!!" gun signs at groceries, restaurants, and bars?

Gun laws have changed a lot in Ohio ever since Buckeye Firearms Association became involved two decades ago.

But not everyone stays up to date on current law. You will still see the occasional rusty sign in a public park illegally banning guns or an old city ordinance illegally proclaiming the power to prohibit concealed carry during emergencies.

One of the most frequent out-of-date errors you'll see is a sign that reads:



Under the statutes of Ohio, if you possess a firearm in any room in which liquor is being dispensed in premises for which a D permit has been issued under Chapter 4303 of the Revised Code, you may be guilty of a felony and are subject to a term of actual incarceration of one or two years.

You'll most often see these signs at groceries, restaurants, and bars, but they may appear anywhere that alcohol is served and where the establishment has a Class D liquor license.

Often, the sign will be displayed in an inconspicuous location and few people ever notice it. But sometimes, you'll see it in a front window or on a door.

So, what does this sign mean?

First, this is NOT a "no gun" sign. If private property owners in Ohio want to prohibit the carrying of firearms, they must post a sign in a conspicuous location that clearly tells you no guns are allowed. It will generally feature a "ghostbuter" design with a handgun inside a circle and a line crossing out the gun. There may also be text that reads, "No firearms allowed" or words to that effect. Here are some examples.

Second, the sign is a holdover from a time in Ohio when it was illegal to carry a firearm in any location where alcohol was being served. However, this law changed with the passage of BFA-backed Senate Bill 17, the "restaurant carry" bill, back in 2011. This legislation created an exception to the law to allow those with a concealed handgun license to carry in a Class D establishment.

In addition, with the passage of Ohio's permitless carry law in 2022, championed by BFA, a concealed handgun license is now optional. If you are able to legally carry a concealed handgun with a license, you are also able to carry without a license.

This means the old Class D liquor establishment sign no longer applies to anyone who is legally qualified to carry a concealed firearm in Ohio, whether they have a license or not.

So what's the point of displaying the sign? Well, if you're carrying illegally, it might be a reminder that in addition to not being able to carry legally anywhere else, you also cannot carry in a liquor establishment. But if that's the case, you're violating a much more serious law. So really, the sign is pointless.

The problem with the sign is that many people will misunderstand its meaning, thinking that it's a "no gun" sign when it's not.

Is this on purpose? Are some property owners attempting to prohibit carry with that old sign? Maybe. But more likely, the owner or manager just posted it out of ignorance because these are generally part of a big box of other compliance signage they purchased, along with posters on labor laws, minimum wage, and OSHA rules.

All of which is to say that if you're legally carrying concealed and you see this sign, you can ignore it. Or, you could ask to speak to the owner or manager, and politely point out why the sign makes no sense, is out-of-date, and could be confusing people.

The only downside to the latter option may be that they'll post a proper no gun sign. In some cases, saying nothing could be best.

Just remember, sign or no sign, if an owner or manager doesn't want you carrying on the property and asks you to leave or remove the firearm from the premises, you are legally obliged to comply.

Dean Rieck is Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, a former competitive shooter, NRA Patron Member, former #1 NRA Recruiter, and host of the Keep and Bear Radio podcast.

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